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Making Connections:

Assignment #2

Rachael Regier


EDU 5173

Part A:

Connections:​ The article ​Let’s talk about listening,​ distributed by the Ontario Ministry of

Education (2009) drew heavily on the teachings of Vgotsky, without explicitly addressing it. The

Ministry of Education’s references to “silent conversations” and “inner voice” (p.2) reminded me

of Vgotsky’s work on self talk and inner-dialogue. The call for explicit instruction on how to

navigate and develop one’s inner voice for self-evaluation, self-instruction and self-regulation

applies to all aspects of literacy- students can talk their own way through spelling and reading

difficulties, using teacher aid to scaffold their understanding to get them to a zone where they

can develop and learn (Mcleod, 2018).

The section on engaging students related to an article recently released by the CBC on

bullying policies that are being developed across the country, in the wake of the recent stabbing

of an intermediate student in Hamilton, Ontario. “Zero-tolerance policies aimed at stopping

bullying not working, experts say” argues that reactive punishment of bullies is not effective at

deterring bullying, but rather educators should be teaching the development of empathy,

kindness, compassion and respect (McQuigge, 2019). The “Let’s Talk About Listening” article

calls for engaging students by asking them open-ended questions, and “encouraging them to

explore other viewpoints” (p. 2). While it might not be explicitly about the development of such

social skills, teaching students to think empathetically in any subject area will help develop them

into kinder thinkers, resulting in moral development, hopefully helping resolve the bullying crisis

in Canada.

Concepts:​ The Ministry of Education’s call for developing critical listeners is crucial to the

development of literacy. The article says up to 80% of education occurs through talk (p. 1), so it

is crucial that students learn to actively decode and comprehend talk, not just to passively listen

and graze. As stated in the previous section, creating effective listeners and critical evaluators

can help develop social skills and leads to moral development, which is part of the role of the

educator (Ontario College of Teachers, 2019). Asking guiding questions and scaffolding

listening so that students understand what active listening is, and so that students understand the

role of listening in their literacy development.

Challenges:​ ​Let’s talk about listening​ states that “teacher’s need to pose higher-order questions”

(p.2), but students are capable of posing higher-order questions themselves. While teachers

should be modelling what higher-order thinking and questioning looks like, the role of the

student should not just be answering questions. Students should be more actively involved in

shaping their own learning, and delegating them to the role of the answerer is not effective.

Students need to have opportunities in the classroom to be critical of the content and pedagogy

being installed in their classroom. While the article does call for self-questioning, the ability to

extend critical skills beyond oneself is paramount in creating a well-rounded, literate individual.

Changes:​ This article calls for explicit instruction in listening, something I have never considered

before. Through balanced reading programs, teachers are taught to teach reading with “read

alouds”, in which students are reading a shared book alongside the teacher, and so far the

emphasis has been on comprehension of the text. I hadn’t considered that students were using

critical listening skills during read-alouds. According the Scholastica (2009), the guided reading

section of a balanced program calls for teachers to “provide introductions to the text that support

students' later attempts at problem solving… ​prompt, encourage, and confirm students' attempts

at problem solving… [and to] engage in meaningful conversations… using a variety of


comprehension strategies”. Reading comprehension is interwoven with talk, which requires

meaningful listening.

Part B:

Students engage with the language arts through a variety of mediums- reading, writing

and media literacy. Integral to all three of these strands is oral communication. According to

Literacy for learning​ (2004), students learn by sharing their own thinking, and by “observ[ing]

and absorb[ing] the thoughts and thinking processes of others” (p. 56). As outlined in Part A,

listening can be such a powerful tool for empathy, but teaching empathy through the language

arts goes beyond listening. By reading books like ​Refugee​ by Alan Gratz or ​Wonder​ by Raquel

Jaramillo, students empathize with the subjects of their selected books and can gain insight into

the experiences of fellow classmates, who might be refugees, or individuals with severe facial

differences. ​Constructing Meaning​ suggests that by developing listening skills, students are able

to “participate in language events as equal and demanding partners” (p. 80). Listening and

communication skills allow students to interact with the world and is a vehicle for self-motivated

discovery and exploration within and beyond literacy.

By aiding students in the development of listening skills, educators are teaching their

students to be self-sufficient explorers, which aides in every subject area. By using common

keywords across subject areas, teachers are indicating to their students the transference of key

skills. By using the comprehension strategies as outlined by ​A guide to effective literacy​ across

all subject areas, students are given the opportunity to apply previous knowledge and skills in

exciting new ways. For example: students need to “find important information” in math word

questions; students need to draw inferences from different strands and years in science (going

from grade 2 “air & water in the environment” to grade 3 “soils in the environment” in the

“understanding earth and space systems” unit). The twelve key comprehension strategies go far

beyond reading, and explicitly helping students transfer these important skills is vital in

cross-curricular success.

According to ​Growing success (​ 2010), “the primary purpose of assessment and

evaluation is to improve student learning” (p. 6). The document outlines seven fundamental

principles of assessment, evaluation and reporting, which can be summarized as: teachers need to

have an ongoing communication with students (and their parents). This can be written, as in the

cases of rubrics and report cards, but teachers ought to have an ongoing dialogue with their

students about their education. Teachers should be able to conference with students about the

students successes and their concerns, and students should be able to provide feedback and

respond to the teachers comments. As a team, students and teachers should use those key

comprehension strategies as outlined in ​A Guide to effective literacy​ to help equip the student

with resources to aid in their learning. According to ​Let’s talk about listening, b​ y being an

effective listener, the teacher should be able to infer and understand where the student is coming

from, and from there be able to create a supportive learning environment that allows the student

to gain confidence in their own learning and thinking (p. 4). Giving students descriptive ongoing

and meaningful feedback allows students can use to propel themselves into deeper and

continuous learning.

Part C:

1) The activity “Quick Writes” provides students with an opportunity to respond in writing

to an oral prompt. One of the benefits of this activity is that students have a time-constraint,

hopefully relieving some of the pressure of perfectionism, and allowing them instead to focus on

the content of their work. As a teacher, I would prefer to see students thinking over neat

handwriting and perfect spelling. Giving students time to just think and respond without the

pressures of grammar et al. isn’t a common occurrence in the elementary classroom, and I would

like to encourage that. By removing the text from the equation, students have nothing to check

their spelling against or to make sure it’s perfect, giving teachers an opportunity to check-in on

students oral comprehension speeds and skills.

This activity also is curricularly flexible. Having students write down everything they

know or learned from a read excerpt on the water cycle, for example, can be a formative way for

teachers to assess the previous knowledge and ongoing learning of students. Teachers can also

use this activity as an instructional exercise. In a music classroom, teachers could read an excerpt

about the life of a composer, and have students write down what they consider key points.

Teachers could then have students compare their notes to a peers, and discuss the differences in

what they find key points, which could then transition into a placemat activity.

Another option would be to have students read their responses out loud, and then to call

on another student to summarize and respond to their peers statement. The opportunity for

students to respond to another student's work creates opportunities for students to learn as a

collective, and having the class find their commonalities and differences can be an empathy

inspiring activity. By having students compare their key points from a reading, students can

create overall themes in their key points and organize them (in the composer example, having

students organize their key points into biographical, compositional and geographical). This

allows students to monitor their comprehension as compared to other students, one of the reading

comprehension strategies outlined in ​A guide to effective literacy instruction.

One of the downfalls of this activity is that students are only listening to the teacher.

Students don’t have opportunity to respond verbally to the teachers speech, making it a

potentially ineffective one sided conversation. By having students respond to their peers and

expanding the activity to more than the student listening to the teacher, this activity can be an

effective formative assessment, as well as an opportunity for teachers to guide students in

effective comprehension strategies.

2. Assessing purposeful talk and active listening are interwoven. One cannot show their

listening without responding, and one cannot speak purposefully without actively listening.

Teachers cannot assess students based off of a one-sided conversation, but rather must engage

and evaluate students interactions with others.

Some suggestions for assessing active listening, as outlined in ​Let’s talk about listening​,

include using student-teacher conferences, their responses and interaction to speakers, and their

feedback to others (p. 3). While I think these strategies are helpful, they miss the crux of the

problem regarding assessing listening and talk- how does one objectively evaluate what is

happening in real time? I think the solution is being ongoing and purposeful, and giving students

many opportunities to engage in purposeful conversation. Purposeful conversation is not static,

so if the students speak in circles, it becomes clear that they are not listening. All a teacher can

do, then, is actively listen, and when asked, speak purposefully, which evaluates the students

ability to actively listen and speak purposefully in their turn.

Activities like “Quick Writes” fuse together other aspects of literacy. Teachers can

evaluate students active listening skills in written documents. The inverse, having students

respond verbally to a text they have read, gives teachers the ability to assess reading

comprehension through the speech of their students. By prompting students to ask thoughtful and

higher-order thinking questions, teachers are able to see the thoughtful talk and purposeful

listening in one-on-one conferences.

One of the fundamental principles of assessment and evaluation is supporting all

students. The document ​Growing success​ refers specifically to students with special education

needs, students are not native English speakers (as well as English language learners), and those

who are Indigenous (p. 6). Students who cannot engage in the English language present a unique

predicament to English teachers. How does one evaluate a students ability to speak and listen in

a language that is not their own? Teachers must develop methods of evaluation that meet

students where they are. Whether it be by alternate modes of communication (ie; technology), by

playing to the students strengths (their skills in writing are much stronger than their verbal

communication), teachers must be equitable and honest with their students who have difficulties

in any aspect of language.



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